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Investment Firm Targets Wildcats Bill Westcott, Inc. Focus on Pensions for Higher Education Employees By Christy Krueger Brilliantly colored, framed art embellishes the office walls at Bill Westcott, Inc. and photos of familiar faces such as Lute Olson are scattered through the well-lit hallways and comfortable conference room. It’s no coincidence that the creators of the artwork are current and former University of Arizona employees or that the investment firm is located just blocks from campus. Proprietors Bill Westcott and JoAnna Westcott specialize in retirement planning and investment management for employees of higher education institutions – primarily the UA – “from presidents to plumbers,” Bill said. He is chairman of the board. She is president. The company’s roots date to 1921 when Bill’s grandfather, C. D. Kessler entered the financial services business. “I’m the last of the legacy and I’ve been in practice here 35 years,” Bill said. JoAnna is from Des Moines, Iowa, and lived in Kansas City, Mo., and Phoenix before meeting Bill at a training course. She had a background in securities and data communication and eventually moved to Tucson to marry and work with Bill. “Universities’ retirement plans are different from what is available in the private sector, and the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the Arizona Board of Regents all have specific rules governing college

tirement plans,” JoAnna said. Knowing the complexity of investment choices that university employees face, the Westcotts considered UA to be an attractive market – and it was nearby. Here’s another reason for targeting this clientele – “At UA there’s $8 billion in retirement dollars in one square mile,” Bill said. “So why would we go to a larger geographic area? And it’s culturally cohesive.” Breaking into this market, however, proved to be no easy task. Bill realized from the start that he’d have to reach out to potential clients on an individual basis, so he pounded the pavement in search of professors who would talk to him.

At UA there’s $8 billion in retirement dollars in one square mile. So why would we go to a larger geographic area? –

Bill Westcott, Founder Bill Westcott, Inc.

He attended Arizona Board of Regents meetings, lobbying to expand university employees’ control over their retirement plans. His persistence paid off. His firm now serves hundreds of university employees. Over the years, some of their UA clients moved to other Pac-12 schools. “We have clients at Washington State, Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. A lot are sports-related,” Bill said. “In 1995 we started a relationship with Lute Olson, so they’re mostly coaches that came out of that era, then went elsewhere.” JoAnna calls herself the relationship developer of the business. Bill says she’s very good at communicating with clients, using language they understand. This is especially important, they both believe, when relaying financial information from the clients’ attorneys and accountants, as well as translating news in the media that might be relevant to them. An example is their response to events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers. On that day JoAnna and Bill, like most of us, were glued to the TV. “Bill said to me, ‘We need to go to the office and write a letter to our clients and tell them we’re here for them,’ ” JoAnna said. And that’s exactly what they did. “To me, that said it’s about how we take care of other people, how what’s continued on page 198 >>> Fall 2014 > > > BizTucson 197

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